A favorite that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Virginia Astley is a British musician who put out a small slew of full lengths and EPs in the 80s, but seems to have flown under the American radar. Her music is distinctive for its sing-songy, little boy church choir vocal delivery, and her lyrics, while sometimes indistinguishable, are as dark and ruthless as they come (“I’ve tasted your tongue like a worm from the grave / Had you inside me, then like a rock beside me”). She also used her extensive collection of field recordings to make a gorgeous instrumental concept album chronicling a summer day in the English countryside, which is way more expansive and less twee than it sounds.
My sister first played me Hope In A Darkened Heart a few years ago and it’s stuck with me since. While the songs are effectively pop in structure, the record defies the specificity of genre: it truly sounds like nothing else. Astley wrote all the songs except for the opening track, which is a duet with David Sylvian. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Astley co-produced the record, and it feels very much like both of them: Astley’s lilting, pastoral nostalgia on top of Sakamoto’s mechanical, off-kilter synth chug. Its darkness is belied by how damn pretty it is. Well overdue for a re-release.